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Gardening Q&A


Ask the Master Gardeners: February 2011




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Disclaimer:
Guadalupe County Master Gardeners is responsible for this content, which is not edited by the Wilson County News or wilsoncountynews.com.

January 25, 2011 | 1,898 views | Post a comment

Q: When can I plant potatoes? I heard on the MG garden show about planting them in bushel baskets and I’d like to give it a try.

A: There are many different answers to the “when.” Traditionally we plant on Washington’s birthday, February 22. Another source says Valentine’s Day. Texas A&M says to plant from February to March in Central Texas in order to harvest potatoes from May to June. Garrett and Beck in Texas Organic Vegetable Gardening say that the official dates are two to three weeks before the last frost, in other words, February 7 to March 15. And still another source says to plant on the full moon (February 18 or March 19). So at this point you can pretty well make your own choice.

Now that we are ready to plant, you need to determine the location. Do not plant in an area where you grew any members of the nightshade family this past year. That means not to grow where tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and eggplant were growing. Rotating your crop families helps to alleviate recurring diseases and pests. Don’t forget to plant in full sun. For our area, Dr. Jerry Parsons and David Rodriguez recommend planting Kennebec and White Cobbler for white potatoes, Red LaSoda and Red Pontiac for red potatoes, and Norgold for Russett potatoes. Use seed potatoes rather than grocery store potatoes as the store ones may have been treated so they won’t sprout.

Either use the whole potato (if small) or cut into 2 to 3 ounce pieces (the size of a golf ball) with at least one eye. Let the pieces dry out a bit or callous over. Several authorities dust with dusting sulfur. I just let mine callous last year and they did fine. For bushel basket planting, I cut out the bottom of a bushel basket (or a large pot) and placed in my garden. Then I placed my cut piece of potato on top of the garden soil. I then added nice soil to cover the potato (actually I added some of my very own made compost that had completely broken down). As the sprouts grew, I kept adding more soil around them until the basket was almost full. Remember that tubers form laterally from the stem.

In 90 to 120 days the tops will die back and yellow, and you can harvest the potatoes. For storing, only wipe off the potatoes and do not wash them. If you are not sure when to pick potatoes, you can do what I did. I gently lifted the basket and felt around in the loose soil to see what size the potatoes were (also you can go ahead and pick a few small ones for dinner).

Clara Mae Marcotte is a Texas Master Gardener with the Texas AgriLife Extension. If you have a question to be answered, call the Master Gardeners at 830-379-1972 or leave a message to be answered. The website is guadalupecountymastergardeners.org. The Master Gardener research library is open Mondays from 8:30 to noon, on the second floor of the Texas AgriLife Extension building, 210 East Live Oak in Seguin.
 
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